Senate bill helps terminate rapists' parental rights

A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Thursday that would help states terminate the parental rights of men who father children through rape.

Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) are the lead sponsors of the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act, S. 2443, which would provide federal grants to states that pass laws allowing women to petition for the termination of their attacker’s parental rights if there is clear evidence that the child was conceived through rape.

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“The Rape Survivor Child Custody Act is necessary to help ensure the rights of rape survivors who give birth to a child conceived through rape,” Brown said Friday. “Often times, victims may be intimidated by their attacker in the parenting process, which ultimately harms the child and hinders the mother’s ability to parent.”

The senators said 23 states and the District of Columbia do not have an explicit statute that allows women to restrict the parental rights of men who impregnate them through rape and that in the states that do have laws on the books protecting victims, 20 require an actual rape conviction.

“When a child is conceived through rape, the attacker often uses his legal paternal rights to harass and intimidate the mother, creating a dangerous environment for the child,” Ayotte said. “Our bill encourages states to adopt legal standards whereby victims can more easily petition for the termination of their attacker’s paternal rights, enabling mothers to better protect themselves and their children.”

Funding for the grants would come from the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

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